African officials: Spread of monkeypox is already an emergency


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HARARE, Zimbabwe – Health officials in Africa say they are treating the monkeypox outbreak there as an emergency and are urging rich countries to share the world’s limited supply of vaccines to avoid glaring equity problems looming during the COVID-19 pandemic appeared .

Monkeypox has been sickening people in parts of central and west Africa for decades, but the lack of laboratory diagnosis and weak surveillance means many cases across the continent go undetected. So far this year, countries in Africa have reported more than 1,800 suspected cases, including more than 70 deaths, but only 109 have been laboratory confirmed.

“This particular outbreak represents an emergency for us,” said Ahmed Ogwell, acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control. “We want to be able to treat monkeypox as an emergency now, so it doesn’t cause more pain and suffering,” he said.

Last week, the WHO said its emergency committee had concluded that the spreading monkeypox outbreak was of concern but did not yet warrant being declared a global health emergency. The UN health agency said it would reconsider its decision if the disease continues to spread beyond more borders, shows signs of increasing severity or infects vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and children.

More than 5,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 51 countries worldwide, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of these cases are in Europe. No deaths have been reported outside of Africa.

Within Africa, the WHO said, monkeypox has spread to countries where it hasn’t been seen before, including South Africa, Ghana and Morocco. according to dr Moeti Matshidiso, WHO director for Africa, however, more than 90% of the continent’s infections occur in Congo and Nigeria.

She said given the limited global stocks of vaccines to fight monkeypox, the WHO is in talks with manufacturers and countries with stocks to see if they could be shared. The vaccines were primarily developed to stop smallpox, a related disease – and most are not approved for use against monkeypox in Africa. Vaccines have not been used to try to eradicate monkeypox epidemics in Africa; Officials have mainly relied on measures such as contact tracing and isolation.

“We want the global spotlight on monkeypox to act as a catalyst to end this disease in Africa once and for all,” she said at a news conference on Thursday.

The WHO noted that countries with stocks of monkeypox vaccines, similar to last year’s around COVID-19 vaccines, are not yet sharing them with African countries.

“We don’t have any donations that have been offered to (poorer) countries,” said Fiona Braka, who leads the WHO’s emergency response team in Africa. “We know that the countries that have some reserves reserve them mainly for their own people.”

The WHO said last month it was working to create a mechanism to share vaccines with countries with the biggest outbreaks, some of which fear vaccines could go to wealthy countries like the UK, Germany and France, some of the biggest donors Agency that already have their own supplies.

While cases of monkeypox in Europe and North America have been found primarily in men who are gay or bisexual or who sleep with other men, this is not the case in Africa.

WHO’s Tieble Traore said that according to detailed data from Ghana, the number of monkeypox cases is almost evenly split between men and women.

“We haven’t seen any spread among men who have sex with men,” he said.

Among monkeypox cases in Britain, which has the largest outbreak outside of Africa, the vast majority of cases affect men and officials have found that it is only within “defined sexual networks of gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men” spreads.

Scientists warn that anyone is at risk of contracting monkeypox if they come into close physical contact with an infected patient or their clothing or bedding.

In Africa, monkeypox was mainly transmitted to humans by infected wild animals such as rodents or primates. It has not usually triggered widespread outbreaks or rapid spread between people.

AP journalist Maria Cheng in London contributed. African officials: Spread of monkeypox is already an emergency

Dustin Huang

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